Allison's Book Bag

Joyfully Exploring Words, Authors Stephen and Susan Tchudi

Posted on: June 30, 2015

The past few years I have taught an after school writing club for elementary-aged students. One of the inspirations for the activities I teach is a book called Gifts of Writing by Susan and Stephen Tchudi. I’ve mentioned it before as part of my Roundup of Writing Guides for Young People. This week, I plan to post a full review of it.

My custom is to promote an upcoming review with a teaser. However, to my dismay, I have been unable to find much info about the author pair. The back flap of Gifts of Writing, a guide published in 1980, tells me that Stephen Tchudi used to be a professor of English at Michigan State University and his wife Susan used to be a professor of English at Central Michigan. Both contributed to professional journals. Many of the ideas from Gifts of Writing grew directly from their work with young people in writing workshops. At that time, they lived in Michigan and were parents of four children.

From Heinemann, I also discovered that Stephen Tchudi later taught and retired from the University of Nevada, where he coordinated the interdisciplinary university seminars program and directed graduate programs in rhetoric and composition. He also edited an interdisciplinary humanities journal and served as the past president of the National Council of Teachers of English. Together, his wife and him wrote several books about the English classroom, because they believed classrooms “should be places for joyful exploration of the word and world”.

As I continued to dig, I found one more item of interest. As part of a 2009 project called Growing Into Who We Are, the two both submitted essays that reveals insights into their personal lives. Stephen Tchudi wrote about becoming an artist, a process that involved his struggling with shading, creating 3-D art in high school, and cartooning in college. The latter not working out, Stephen turned to teaching English, taking up art only again when he retired. Now he likes to both pencil draw and watercolor. He’s also an organic farmer and justice activist.

As for his wife, Judy wrote an essay on equality. Besides her involvement with farming and justice activism, Susan and her husband have a weekly radio show. On it, they interview guests and focus on environmental issues. The two apparently now live in California.

Gifts of Writing by Susan and Stephen Tchudi is one of the first writing guides I used heavily as a young person. It’ll also serve as the foundation for a writing club I’ll teach later this month. For both of these reasons, I’m reviewing it tomorrow. Save the date: July 1!

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